Merkel in jeopardy
Angela Merkel had been hoping to cruise to a fourth term as German Chancellor after talks with the Social Democrats – but obstacles seem to have sprung up. One of them is decades younger than her. He happens to be a 28-year-old Kevin Kuehnert – a millennial behind the NoGroKo campaign, short for No Grand Coalition, which has turned Germany's normally staid politics upside down. Thanks largely to him and his equally dedicated comrades, the proposed coalition government between her conservative party and the Social Democrats (SPD) now hangs on a 'yes or no' vote by the SPD's rank and file. More than 400,000 are casting their ballots in a postal vote. Going by the interest shown by the attentive audiences at Kuehnert's meetings, Merkel has good reason to nurse apprehensions. "We cannot continue like this: the cosy politics represented by Angela Merkel which does not decide anything," he said."This is now slowly ending." A "Yes" vote would mean Merkel can get back to running the country with the coalition government safely in place. A "No" vote would mean that she must scrap the coalition and either take her chances with a minority government or face new elections. Germany's September 2017 election was supposed to be an easy victory for Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), and she was expected to get set for her fourth term in office as Chancellor. Instead, voters revolted against the status quo. Both CDU and the SPD barely maintained their status as Germany's top parties, suffering record losses and losing millions of votes to the far-right nationalist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), which took nearly 13 per cent of the vote. That is when the likes of Kuehnert swung into action. He believes the SPD needs to re-establish its socialist roots as an opposition party rather than be a part of Merkel's government. He maintains that joining the coalition would cede the leading opposition role to the AfD. "They will only end up strengthening political parties like the right-wing populists. Not without reason, they have integrated the word 'Alternative' into their name because you get the impression that there are no longer alternatives amongst the traditional German parties." As Merkel tried to hammer out a coalition agreement with the SPD, a senior member of the CDU's sister party, the Christian Socialists (CSU), dismissed Kuehnert's NoGroKo campaign as a "dwarf uprising," a swipe at Kuehnert's youthful inexperience and his short height. What happens if the SPD really say no? Many, according to reports, are willing to risk new elections. Kuehnert is hoping the party will reject the coalition. His critics may dismiss him as a millennial upstart. But since January, the SPD has signed up 25,000 new members. Merkel's future now hangs on their vote.